Kepa Arrizabalaga’s mature acknowledgement of his “big mistake” in the EFL Cup final simplified Maurizio Sarri’s decision to recall him for a 2-1 win at Fulham on Sunday.
The 24-year-old goalkeeper refused to be substituted during last weekend’s penalty shoot-out loss to Manchester City at Wembley and was relegated to the bench for the midweek Premier League victory over Tottenham.
Willy Caballero kept a clean sheet in that match but Kepa returned to the starting XI at Craven Cottage and made two fine saves either side of half-time.
Sarri commended the Spain international’s response to the storm that has raged around him in the last seven days and claimed it was a “normal decision” to bring him back into the fold.
“Kepa made a big mistake. He paid for it with the club and the team. Now the situation is closed,” Sarri said.
“There was only one other way; to put him out of the squad for the rest of the season.
“But Kepa is a man and understood and reacted very well today. I spoke with him during this week and he understood. His behaviour during the week was really very good.
“I know the man very well. He is very clever, with a very good mentality. He made a mistake and a misunderstanding. Now is enough.”
Sarri insisted the strength of Kepa’s character meant the world’s most expensive goalkeeper was never likely to spend the remainder of the season on the sidelines.
“Considering the man, no [it was not considered], because I know him very well,” the Italian said.
“I am sure that it was only a misunderstanding at the beginning, a big mistake at the end of the situation. But, with another man, yes, of course, I could have done it in another way.
“With him, I know him very well and know very well it wasn’t the right solution.
“But now I know very well that Caballero is a very good goalkeeper and an important man for our group and our dressing room, so I have to find space for him.”
Chelsea, who beat Fulham thanks to goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho, remain sixth in the Premier League, two points adrift of fourth-place Manchester United.